DNA Results vs. Tribal Enrollment vs. CDIB — What Do They All Mean?

DNA Results vs. Tribal Enrollment vs. CDIB — What Do They All Mean?

Posted By Paul G May 3rd, 2017 Blog

You may think you have Native American heritage, but there is a lot more to it than simply the stories about a distant ancestor that have been passed down through your family members.

The tribal enrollment process is a long journey.

And when it comes to researching your genealogy, you’ll likely stumble upon a lot of unfamiliar terms that may cause some confusion your research process.

Thankfully, you have access to more information than ever before through the resources available online. Here, we will discuss the key differences between DNA test results, a CDIB card, and Tribal Enrollment.

The Purpose of DNA Test Results in Your Family History Search 

DNA test results are not enough on their own to qualify someone as belonging to a specific tribe. However, a DNA test is a good place to start to see if attempting to enroll in a tribe is worthwhile for you.

Each different American Indian tribe has their own set of specific eligibility requirements for tribal enrollment. You cannot simply state that you are descendent of such-and-such, who was a member of that tribe. You will often have to prove that your ancestor was indeed a member of that tribe, and you will also have to prove your relation to that ancestor.

This is where a DNA test comes in: it can help you establish a firm connection to someone in the tribe. There are several DNA testing services available online, such as 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA and Ancestry.com. But remember, DNA testing and confirming your relation to a tribe member is not enough to claim your belonging in a tribe, as you will have to meet the tribe’s other specific eligibility requirements.

Related InfoWhat You Should Know About DNA Testing for Family History Research

Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB)

CDIB cards are issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). It lists an individual’s blood degree by tribe and contains information about their birth date and the last four digits of their social security number. CDIB cards are signed by a BIA representative.

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However, the BIA does not oversee the tribal enrollment process for any individual tribe. Therefore, obtaining a CDIB card does not necessarily mean that a person is an established member of a federally recognized tribe. Since tribes take care of their own membership process, you will have to go through their specific tribal enrollment in order to become a recognized member.

The Tribal Enrollment Process

As we’ve discussed previously, each tribe has their own specific criteria when it comes to tribal membership eligibility. Tribes are sovereign nations, so there is no involvement from the federal government or any U.S. government agency when it comes to tribal enrollment. A tribe will typically list their enrollment criteria in their constitution, ordinances, or articles of incorporation.

While tribal membership criteria vary between tribes, there are a few common requirements in most. One is proof that you descend from someone listed one the tribe’s base roll, which is an original list of members. Another is tribal blood quantum.

These two things can be proven through DNA testing and obtaining a CDIB card, but they are not enough to grant enrollment in a particular tribe. Other enrollment criteria can include continued contact with the tribe in question or a tribal residency.

Essentially, you cannot apply to enroll as a member of a tribe until after you have completed your genealogical research. Then, you will have to speak directly with the tribe you want to enroll with about their specific process. There are 562 total American Indian and Alaska Native tribes that are federally recognized, and you can find them in the BIA Tribal Leaders Directory.

Indian Census Collection


TAGGED:    native american heritage  


18 thoughts on “DNA Results vs. Tribal Enrollment vs. CDIB — What Do They All Mean?

  1. Dorothy Kanter says:

    Am trying to know about my Great Grandmother named Laura Lemaire West born in British Honduras around 1844. She migrated to USA in the late 1800’s and lived in Louisiana. She died in 1916. She was married to Samuel West who was a shrimp fisherman.

  2. Searching for Nancy McClanahan Jackson.Cherokee midwife and Dr. Born November 1963.Grandmother or great grand mother was Penny. Married to Lem Jackson.

  3. Christi Braxton says:

    My mother told me that my father is Apache. He was a minor at the time I was conceived. His father was full blooded Apache and his Mother was half Apache and half something else. No trible affiliation I suspect for a couple generations. I did meet my father and grandmother once, she looked Mexican to me and she looked a little ghetto with Two braids, a moo moo and chihuahuas in a trailer. How do I find out if I am Apache and which tribe to approach to learn more about my heritage?

    • Michael McDivitt says:

      We read your comment and are trying to do the same. I’m curious if you have found out how to go about it.

    • Lori jump says:

      ghetto? really? that’s your attitude towards your grandmother? Sounds like you are looking for what your “heritage” can get you…

    • Wow… How disrespectful! To think this is how you describe your grandmother, with no respect and no shame. Ghetto with two braids a moo moo & chiwauwas in a trailer. You don’t sound like a very nice person. You want to find them…but do they want to find you??

      • Vicki says:

        I agree. They probably don’t want to find her. To speak if her grandma like that.

    • Vicki says:

      Wearing braids is not ghetto. Excuse me. I have long dark hair and wear two pony tails. I’m not ghetto. Wearing braids is not ghetto. Geeze Louise. I have a Chihuahua. That doesn’t make anyone ghetto. Apparently you weren’t raised around any Native Americans or Hispanics. So what is ghetto to you is cool. What is not cool are little tiny Bobbed hair.

  4. Darrin Turner says:

    I recently took a DNA TEST,my results came in with myself being 9% Cherokee and 2% Sioux,my relatives in Huntsville,Al said my grandmother(Dovie Hammonds) on my father’s side was of Indian descent,but being a Afro American background and no records on the Dawes Roll,I’m having a hard time looking for records,can someone please point me in the right direction.

  5. Annette Engel says:

    I did my DNA and only found out that I am 26% Inuit or Native American. How do I find out what exact type like Cherokee or Sioux?

  6. Annette Engel says:

    By the way, I am not after anything but knowledge and possibly finding relatives.

  7. Billy says:

    I’m already a member l would like to know more about my dna witch I have done and I would like to know more about my Native side

  8. Hi. I am so lost. Have no idea where to start searching my native American people..I have one line of Native American blood..I live in Central Texas. But don’t have any idea how much one line translates to. Or how to start looking for answers. Thanks you for your time. Terri Estes Allin

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